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My Maxtor Hard Drive Just Caught Fire! 386

Dracos writes "Dell batteries you say catch fire? Well don't worry about that Dell battery, look inside your PC case at your HDD, mine just went up in smoke and flames..." Could be worse. It could be ball lightning. I hear there's a lot of that going around inside servers these days.
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My Maxtor Hard Drive Just Caught Fire!

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  • Overblown Drama (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:18PM (#16016556) Homepage Journal

    While I don't think Seagate will like this (they acquired Maxtor last December and are still merging them into their operation, similar to the fate of Connor), I think it is a bit overblown to compare to erupting batteries which could scorch reproductive organs if they went off in laps like so much Gamma-Ray emitting McDonald's Coffee. I've seen chips fail before and it's nothing new to see their little epoxy encased brains leaving Olympus Mons-like formations or going off like Krakatoa. More excitement can likely be found with exploding motherboard capacitors (due in large part to counterfeit electronics components.)

    Now, if this is something which is widely happening then it's news.

    you know that pumpkin we built a pc in? it doesn't need a candle.

    • Re:Overblown Drama (Score:4, Informative)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:21PM (#16016589) Homepage Journal
      More excitement can likely be found with exploding motherboard capacitors (due in large part to counterfeit electronics components.)

      The motherboard's power supply caps aren't exciting when they fail. The ones that we had a huge rash of a few years back failed silently (at least in terms of being able to hear them over the fan noise) and just bubbled a little. I let the smoke out of a capacitor once by plugging too much power into it, and all that happened was the little pre-stressed piece at the end burst open like an airbag cover or something, and a bunch of foul-smelling smoke that I ran away from rather than breathe spurted out of it; it was a fairly thick cloud but it only shot out about sixteen inches. Those weren't on a motherboard, but in some dinky (and crappy) powered speakers.

      • A few years ago, one capacitor on my (relatively expensive) MSI board blew away VERY loud, and with a massive photon emission. To make it worse, I was just under the table, looking for the plug to attach my webcam as it happened. I was scared shitless.. :-)
        Besides, as far as I remember, those capacitors were not counterfeit themselves, they "just" contained the crappy electrolyte. As far as I remembered, quite a few component manufacturers were affected.
        • Re:Overblown Drama (Score:4, Interesting)

          by dchamp ( 89216 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @02:01PM (#16017459)
          I was on the staff for a LAN party group. At one event we had participants have two power supplies blow caps, rather loudly - about like a small firecracker, within a few minutes of each other. The caps were completely split open, and there was grey papery dust all over the insides of the computer.

          One of them took out every component in the computer except for the floppy drive. Both had cases & PSU's they'd gotten from a retailer known for cheap components. The power supplies were by a company whose name starts with "D" and rhymes with "Beere". Any time I see a PC with one of those, I tell people to replace the PSU immediately.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kimvette ( 919543 )
        Dunno about that, when my Abit VP6 gave up the ghost (sent it back for RMA once for bad caps, they put the same fugging brand back in as replacements!) not only did it take out the power supply with it, but it put on a fantastic light show as well. Yep, it was arcing like mad, and by the time I managed to pull the machine out from under the desk and open up the case, the motherboard had caught fire. Surprisingly, all the other components (video cards, SCSI card, all the drives, sound card, etc.) all surviv
    • by xtracto ( 837672 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:25PM (#16016634) Journal
      Well, it surely caught fire now haha

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    • by ThatsNotFunny ( 775189 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:50PM (#16016886)
      Well done... you used "Overblown" and "reproductive organs" in the same thread without giggling. :D
    • Seeing everyone in the lab where I used to work jump and hit the floor when a cap blew loud enough to sound like a gunshot was just amusing.
      • by spun ( 1352 ) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @03:29PM (#16018187) Journal
        Hehe, I nearly fell off a ladder while pulling Cat5 through a drop ceiling once, due to an exploding Linux CD. Seems a co-worker wanted to give it a try and bought one of those Linux books with the CD in the back (remember when a Linux distro came on one CD?) You know the books I mean, the nice soft cover books that weigh like five pounds and pretty much gaurantee the CD is going to be at least a little stressed. He had one of those older super-fast CD drives that could rev up to dangerous velocities. Poor guy put in the CD, the drive spun up, and the CD just flew apart, shredding his CD drive and shooting an inch wide wedge of CD out the front, six inches from his nuts, and across the room where it buried itself half an inch in the wall. Sounded like a gunshot. I nearly fell, turned it into a controlled leap and ran into his office. Poor guy was white faced as he showed me just how close he'd come to an involuntary vasectomy.
    • Re:Overblown Drama (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MyDixieWrecked ( 548719 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @01:07PM (#16017045) Homepage Journal
      this is blown out of proportion, but I think he's inflating it so for advertising revenue. did you see all the adverts on that page?

      I've had similar things happen to electrical equipment in the past. I had a Pentium3's fan die in a server at work. we came in in the morning and smelled burnt plastic, and when we discovered that the server wasn't on, we opened it up only to find a 3" crater in the motherboard.

      I also had something similar happen with my G4 upgrade in my old desktop machine. the fan died, but the machine kept running. I woke up and smelled hot plastic, but didn't know what it was... I took a shower and when I got out, I sat at my machine (still wet) and every application had unexpectedly quit. That's when I noticed a strange sound and I opened the side of the machine to see the processor fan vibrating and turning slowly. I touched the heatsink to feel how hot it was and the dampness on my hands actually caused a sizzle sound and I burned my fingertip.

      I could imagine that if I had left for work before inspecting that, I could have started a fire.

      in my life, I've also had an 8-port switch blow (with smoke and a flash), several powerstrips pop and melt, a powerbrick for my powerbook turn to putty, and a floppy drive spray fire.
  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:18PM (#16016559) Journal
    I'm going to argue that this comparison between the cell batteries and this hard drive are not apt.

    I'm not an electrical engineer but to the best of my understanding, batteries have complex chemicals and, ultimately, are a large capacitor storing energy with nothing but a insulator between the two negative and positive charges. Should these insulators decay, then disastrous effects can take place. Have you seen the pictures for the Dell laptops? Some of them are basically the entire battery slot burned out (top and bottom) with melted plastic, circuit board and screen. We're talking potential bodily harm here.

    Again, I'm not an electrical engineer but as I understand it, hard drives are merely rotating discs or platters with a reading arm accessing them while they spin at high speeds. If something goes wrong, it grinds to a halt. There is minimal electronics and circuitry on them and that's what's malfunctioned here. We're not talking flames shooting out the side of a case or possible bodily harm but instead just a chip reaching it's melting point, producing a flash and growing carbon as it dies. And why does this article say "Maxtor" when this is most likely an isolated incident?! I mean, catastrophic failures happen in computer products no matter what the brand name is. Mean time to failure, right? Any microcontroller has this risk. Why doesn't the article list the age of the drive and the conditions it was operating under? I am most interested into whether or not this is under normal use and whether or not it happened immediately or if it's 2 years old.

    Honestly, compare these two images: Blown up Hard drive from the article [dragonsteelmods.com] and a Dell laptop result [blogsmithmedia.com].

    I hardly find the two comparable. I've seen burned out hard drives and burned out computer components and, honestly, you have more to worry about from a cheap power supply than you do a Maxtor hard drive. When those burn out, they tend to take the things they're connected to with them.
    • I used to have a seagate RLL drive that would occasionally decide to burn a trace off the board for no apparent reason. I routed around the trace with a piece of wire, and then that melted its solder off, and then I did it again and used it for about four months without further problems.

      It really is amazing that I never burned the house down as a kid.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by budgenator ( 254554 )
        It really is amazing that I never burned the house down as a kid. If your not squeemish check out the results of my little fire. [comcast.net] Feel free to use me as a bad example for the kids, "see what happens when you do stupid shit arround fire".
    • by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:27PM (#16016649) Homepage Journal
      One chip baking is definitely not anything near the danger of a battery baking. Lithium rechargables are pretty dangerous if misused. One EE battery specialist told me that you only need to overcharge a lithium battery by about one percent to risk explosion or damage, which is why the charge limiting circuitry is so important.
    • Correct.

      I'd like to see some substantial proof that his computer actually had large flames coming out. Seeing that there wasn't much damage to the PCB itself and that the computer was still running, I find this guy's story hard to believe.

      About a year ago, I had a 120GB HDD that fizzled out in the exact same manner. One of the SMD chips on the PCB burned up. It left a hole in the chip with a bit of melted plastic/carbon around the tiny cavity. Considering how small the wires are inside the chip casing, th
    • Or not... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by phorm ( 591458 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:35PM (#16016742) Journal
      How about when your hard-drive is located near your battery. Hard drive starts small internal fire, heats battery (which might otherwise not be so prone to explosion, but it's still Li+ and no batteries like fire), and you get a big fire.

      I'd say this is still something to worry about if it's widespread. However, there are lots of reasons a particular piece of electronics can go (including many environmental factors), be it battery, hard-drive, PSU, etc... so unless more hard-drives catch smoke I'd say it's just a freak occurance and to be wary but not paranoid in the future.

      That being said, in my professional and personal usage for the last few years, I have very few good things to say about Maxtor. Many drives have died, and if you read the fine-print they'll replaced your burned-out-lost-data-POS drive with a "refurbished" unit if it's past the first period of warrantee... usually meaning your replacement will happily cack itself sometime in the near future as well.
    • I've had a Maxtor hdd "go up in flames" before. Nothing spectacular, just some smoke and charred chips on the back. Didn't pose any danger.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 31, 2006 @01:01PM (#16017005)
      nothing but a insulator between the two negative and positive charges

      Well, what else are you going to put between them -- a chaperone?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by devjj ( 956776 )


      Isn't it at least possible that we're seeing these kinds of things because of propagation? Whether the overall PC industry is up or down this year (or quarter/month/week), the overall number of installed devices is still growing, usually at an exponential pace. If a handful of Dells catch fire, and a handful of Apple batteries swell, couldn't at least part of it be attributed to the fact that there are so many devices in the field?

      I've never heard of a hard disk doing this (although this was

    • by cyfer2000 ( 548592 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @01:11PM (#16017078) Journal
      the picture of hard drive looks familiar to me. I have seen some of them. One of my friends was analyzing why they fail several years ago.

      And basically they reached two answers. Some of the companies have replace the halogen based flame retardants with phosphorus based flame retardants due to environmental reasons. Some of the phosphorus based flame retardants are phosphates. And the phosphates segregate out of the epoxy used to embed the die under certain heat and humidity conditions. When there are enough phosphate leached out, it shorts the leads of IC. If you are lucky, you can get the power leads short and the IC is on fire. So in short, the new flame retardant set the IC on fire. This condition happens in summer mostly because of the higher humidity.

      And the second reason was that some of the IC makers have replaced the lead based solder with lead free solder due to environmental concern. Most lead free solders are tin rich. And tin grow whiskers. The tin whisker can short leads. Again, if you are lucky, you get power lines short and you get fire.

      Yesterday a friend told me that the Sony battery was also short by whiskers. I didn't understand where comes the whiskers though.
    • by monopole ( 44023 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @01:23PM (#16017171)
      Not an EE or a chemist for sure.

      Batteries are not large capacitors, the primary dangers of big capacitors are sudden complete discharges when sorted or electrolytics with reversed polarity. Explosive and dangerous (more for the shock and the electrolyte fumes) but not the same scope as batteries.
      Batteries are electrochemical storage devices, the power is derived from chemical reactions not capacitive storage. This in itself isn't particularly bad. The problem with the current crop of batteries is that that the chemicals employed get hot they release highly flammible chemicals and oxygen, and when those catch fire the heat caises the realase of more flammible chemicals and oxygen. This is known as a thermal runaway effect.

      New formulations of lithium batteries avoid this problem by using a different mixture.

    • hard drives are merely rotating discs or platters with a reading arm accessing them while they spin at high speeds. If something goes wrong, it grinds to a halt.

      There is a second failure mode, though its far less common. It also, does not involve fire. It does involve high speed relatively high moment inertia platters and a catastrophic failure in the casing. The casing is pretty sturdy and resilient, but in some cases the only thing holding the top and bottom halves together is a screw and a bead of glu
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by flooey ( 695860 )
      I'm not an electrical engineer but to the best of my understanding, batteries have complex chemicals and, ultimately, are a large capacitor storing energy with nothing but a insulator between the two negative and positive charges. Should these insulators decay, then disastrous effects can take place. Have you seen the pictures for the Dell laptops? Some of them are basically the entire battery slot burned out (top and bottom) with melted plastic, circuit board and screen. We're talking potential bodily harm
  • Probably fake. Nothing to see here.
  • What? (Score:5, Funny)

    by eebra82 ( 907996 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:21PM (#16016587) Homepage
    This is totally cool. The world's first Hard Drive Burner?
  • This just in... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:21PM (#16016590)
    This just in. Electricity can cause heat and electronic circuits can short out. Details at eleven.

    This is nothing. Now the power supply I once had belch fire half way across the room, that was somthing.
    • We had a PC almost burn down the house once, literally, two fire engine callout with respirators, toxic smoke billowing out of windows, carpet on fire, sofa on fire, bed on fire, insurance claim to redecorate because of all the smoke damage, and the PC - pretty much nothing left of it except the case - it must have got SERIOUSLY hot inside that case.

      Don't know what happened to it, the thing basically spontaneoously combusted and had a complete melt down. Scary stuff.

      • Have you ever looked into the case of an older PC? Get something two years old sitting on the (carpeted) floor, in a house that has central air, and you have 50% of the open space in that PC full of lint and dust and other interesting stuff... even more if the owner's a smoker or has pets. You get a lint filled PC on carpet next to a sofa and something decides to make a spark and you have your fire bomb, expecially if it's right next to a case fan.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    ...stay away from Bic lighters!

    I recently noticed one end has a little wheel. Turning the wheel generates sparks. The sparks themselves seem harmless, but further investigation revealed a shocking result. If you really push down hard, a valve apparently opens, combining with the sparks to emit a small flame! I know it sounds absurd, but I could reproduce it several times. Not only did a flame come out, but the lighter got hot from the flame. Further testing is needed, but I think these Bic guys should prepa
  • by sco_robinso ( 749990 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:24PM (#16016611)
    Ive worked as a tech for 10 years now, and for every 1 problem I've seen with a Seagate or Western Digital, I see 3 problems with a Maxtor. Both in retail sales and repair, I've just seen too many problems with Maxtor's over the years. They fail about 3x as much as any other brand.

    I know there's people out there who have had problems with all the brands, but overall in tens of thousands of drives I've sold or replaced, the majority of those are Maxtors. A few collueages of mine who also have been doing PC repair for 10+ years also have had the same bad luck with Maxtors.

    This doesn't really suprise me. Although none of my clients' machines will be affected by this, as I haven't put a maxtor in a machine for god knows how long.
    • Re:I concur (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Avatar8 ( 748465 )
      I've been working with computes since 1984. In the early 90's, I always chose Maxtor. They were reliable and more affordable than Seagate or WD. However, in the late 90's I started seeing more and more failures with Maxtor drives. I've since given up on them and I'll only buy Seagate, WD or possibly Fujitsu.

      Looks like Maxtor is definitely going downhill, or up in flames.

      Only thing I really suspect about this story is the part where he "ran the drive out of the case." Was he grounded? Was it on carpet or

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eebra82 ( 907996 )
      That's funny.. A friend of mine works at a very large Scandinavian distributor of hardware and he's telling me that Maxtor is on par with other hard drives. Most people rely so heavily on Seagate, but five year warranty is commonplace nowadays and the fact is that these drives fail as often as other major brands (more or less). At least that's what I've heard. If anyone has other info, please correct me.
    • by Cthefuture ( 665326 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:35PM (#16016736)
      Yeah but you can't say for certain until you compare how many Maxtors you sold versus the other brands. Anecdotal evidence won't cut it, you need to look at the records with real numbers. Personal bias can affect even the best of us.
    • Ive worked as a tech for 10 years now, and for every 1 problem I've seen with a Seagate or Western Digital, I see 3 problems with a Maxtor. Both in retail sales and repair ...

      I could echo the same experience on my end. Anecdotal evidence aside, it's worth noting that most Maxtors being sold are offered with a 1 year warranty. The Seagates often come with a 5 year warranty. If the bean counters have figured out the appropriate price point, you would have figured the consumer could as well. Instead ... "O
    • by bogie ( 31020 )
      Maxtor=crap. My experiences and many other techs that I spoken to have found that to be the case for the last several years. Everytime I have to work on a Dell with a failed/dying HD it turns out to be a POS Maxtor drive that is usually less than a year old. I'm beyond annoyed that Seagate would sully their name by purchasing them.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by DaveM753 ( 844913 )
      In 2004 we bought 48 PCs from Dell -- each with Maxtor SATA hard drives. They were model 6Y120M0. 25 of the drives failed within one year. We worked with Dell to proactively replace the remaining drives. At first, Dell was replacing them with model 6Y160M0, which also had a high failure rate. We finally asked Dell to give us ALL non-Maxtor drives. We got a mix of Seagates and Western Digital drives: no problems since.

      Maxtor used to be a good brand. All of our older Dell's have Maxtor drives that are
    • I've just given up on Maxtor...

      I just suffered my FOURTH Maxtor failure in six years... and before you ask "didn't you learn after two", I will point out that two of those failures were of replacements shipped by Maxtor to replace drives that failed before the warranty expired.

      I'm not even bothering to call them about this latest drive (a 120Gb SATA drive less than one year old) because I don't want the replacement they'd probably ship me.

      To be fair, one of the early failures may have been due to an under-r
    • What's with all the irrational Maxtor hate? I only buy Maxtor drives. They have a three year warranty and offer an advance RMA service. This means that when a drive fails they will send me a replacement, and I can use the box that the replacement came in to send them back the old drive. No need to faff about trying to find suitable packing materials on my end.

      At the end of the day, all hard drives fail. Install them using at least four mounting screws, keep them ventillated, use smartmontools [sourceforge.net] to keep an eye
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by codemachine ( 245871 )
      The only brand I've had worse luck with is IBM DeskStar. Though thanks to an 100% failure rate, I no longer have any of them.
    • by cojsl ( 694820 )
      Never ask a tech what is good, all we see is broken stuff......
  • ..the tabloïd-style headline ? I mean, it looks like the nerd equivalent of "Elvis Lives!", or "Brittney's secret child tells us EVERYTHING!"...
  • by suggsjc ( 726146 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:25PM (#16016628) Homepage
    Couldn't get to the article, but I bet since the dell incident was spun to be the "power of bloggers/internet" that you will be seeing a lot more headlines/blogs/whatever that are going to try to ride on its coat-tails.

    The power of connection and freedom of communication is a very wonderful thing, but it can also have its drawbacks as well.
    • by ettlz ( 639203 )
      My dog caught fire.
    • not exactly (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Travoltus ( 110240 )
      Potentially damaing remarks will be peer reviewed by other tech savvy users, if this Maxtor issue is a one in a million problem then it will fizzle. If a lot of other Maxtor drive owners have drives that go boom, there'll be a recall. It all takes care of itself.

      More than likely this owner, whose hard drive was manufactured on March 1, 2005, has a 3 or 5 year warranty on that drive. I have a similar drive from Maxtor from that year that's 5 protected for years. Pity about the data though.
  • In 1999 I had a Maxtor hard drive do exactly the same thing - on the same (read: equivalent) controller chip on the board. The smell was pretty bad too.
    • Theoretically speaking, the data should still be intact. The drive is just over a year old and may still be covered under Maxtor's warranty (I'm not too familiar with Maxtor's warranty policies). It should be as simple as replacing the control PCB (although I'd recommend it be done in a clean room just to be safe).
    • Three years ago (almost to the day actually) a Quantum harddrive did the same. I thought it was funny that it was a "Fireball" model, almost as if I was asking for the result (it came preinstalled on that machine). :)

      The burn was a lot cleaner than the one in the article, following the length of one of the chip's legs. It looked like someone used a narrow drill near the middle and then routed a path across the surface to the nearest edge.

      Fortunately, they manufacture the controller card to be easily repla
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  • What about when we start using these quantum drives, I can see it now, an error happens with the hard drive, a neutron goes flying off an atom, smashes another atom, setting off a chain reaction... Oops, there goes your whole neighborhood!
  • by ettlz ( 639203 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:28PM (#16016665) Journal

    From TFA:

    when I hit the power button flames..LITERALLY shot out of the bottom of the HDD, I was like F**K!!

    when I clicked on the link flames..LITERALLY came out of my head and into this text area. I was like, F**K, Dude?!

    BUT FLAMES SHOOTING OUT OF IT?!?!?!?! Damn, first dell batteries now Hard Drives... What's next?!?

    OMGWTFSATAHDD!!!!11! Tubular!!!!1111one

    DIGG IT!!!!


  • This is part of an under-handed campaign by hardware manufacturers. Why? Simple: to generate sales. Face it, if they make products with long lifesapns, there's no incentive for you to buy new things (laptops, hard drives, etc.). You'll keep your trusty equipment until it suffers a massive failure, which given average quality, might last ten years. Result: slow sales and low turnover. Solution: cause products to self-destruct! The only problem Dell had with the plan is that they got caught by a wave of incen

  • Here's a Quantum FireBall that caught fire:
    http://homepage.mac.com/robm/PhotoAlbum10.html [mac.com]

    I've seen 8 or 10 of these Quantum drives go up, all from the same Philips controller on the board. Maxtor drives suck, but when they inherit this kind of shitty design flaw, it's fricken criminal.
  • Short circuit (Score:5, Informative)

    by Derf_X ( 651876 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:31PM (#16016696)
    I read TFA, and from what I understand, is drive died normally (or a cable came unplugged), like lots of drives do, and when he plugged it in "while it was out of the case" as he says, the contacts on the logic board must have short circuited on the metal surface of the case, which created some sparks. It happened to a friend (who happens to be a computer tech) once when he was checking a faulty drive.

    So in essence, he was not careful with his drive. Hardly a Slashdot story, even less news.
    • I didn't RTFA, partially because it seems to be down. A few sparks and smell of burnt plastic isn't much to worry about, though. It's not like a battery exploding into a firey mess of dangerous chemicals. I once had a cd blow up on me, and that was pretty scary too. I guess there was some flaw in the plastic, because when it spun up, it broke apart into a bunch of pieces and flew apart-- including a fragment that cut through the plastic of the drive casing and hit me in the head. Seriously, it was some

  • So, what HD would you use in your desktop box, if you had to replace a drive today?

    I mean, all drives fail at some point. I've had Maxtor, Segate, WD and several others die over the years (though not as spectacularly as TFA suggests).

    Maybe a mix of brands is the answer, if you can make them co-operate in a RAID array.
    The usual advice seems to be that you want the drives to be identical. Are there any major downsides to using similar spec, but different brand drives in an array?

    • by Mashiki ( 184564 )
      Went to seagate after chain maxtor fails and eventually I went with Samsung, which seems to be working very well. However WD drives seem to work very well in new machines I've built.
  • by nizo ( 81281 ) * on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:32PM (#16016712) Homepage Journal
    Customer: My new drive is smokin!

    Tech Support: We are pleased that you are happy with the speed of your new drive.

    Customer: No, I mean smoke is pouring outta my harddrive man! (Screams of panic and someone saying "get the fire extinguisher!" in the background)

  • Specifically the old Txxx and Dimension XPS series from 1999 or so - although not as spectacularly I must admit...

    The drive was placed vertically in the front of the machine with the PCB facing the air vent. Consequently, dust and debris from the floor got sucked in, and eventually something shorted out the drive electronics. We didn't get 3" high flames, but we got a nice big blue/white flash and the magic smoke came out.

    We solved the problem by raising the towers off the floor and placing plastic shield
  • Oh Em Gee (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Donniedarkness ( 895066 ) <Donniedarkness@g ... .com minus punct> on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:40PM (#16016787) Homepage
    I've got a couple of Maxtors (160gb SATAII's) running in my desktop that like to run at 55+ degrees celcius....without me even doing anything. No programs running, I'm sure there's no spyware accessing the drives, and hell, it's not even connected to the internet. I wonder if we've got some out of the same batch? I've moved the drives away from each other, installed 4 more 80mm case fans (2 that push 34 cfm and 2 that push 36) to complement my 120mm rear fan and 80mm side intake fan. All that managed to make them go from about 65+ degrees to around 58 degrees (celcius, again)... after only about an hour and a half of sitting at the desktop.

    The airflow is good, the case isn't crowded... it HAS to be the drives. Anyone else had this problem?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Get one of those case thermometers and tape the lead to the side of the drive. Maybe the SMART chip reads high on the drive, or it's not talking correctly to your motherboard.

      Alternately, there's the "touch" test. If the drive feels too hot to be comfortably touched, it's too hot to live long. A well cooled drive will feel cool to the touch, even under heavy loads.

  • You have the Mission Impossible virus *joke*.

    If you are lucky you have the crippled version that just blows out the electronics, leaving the data intact. In that case any drive-recovery service can get your data back for a few grand.

  • I have 4 of these (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gigne ( 990887 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:44PM (#16016828) Homepage Journal
    I have at least 4 hard disks that have burned out in the same way. I have seen this happen many, many times.

    I don't see what the fuss is all about. the guy probably shorted +5 with +12V

    This is not a widespread problem. It just happens. You don't see posts on slash about frozen platters, or odd click noises.

    I can take pictures if need be.
  • I'm pretty sure if he paid attention to his drive's SMART data then he would have been able to replace the drive before it burst in to flames.

    # smartctl -Asmartctl version 5.36 [i686-pc-linux-gnu] Copyright (C) 2002-6 Bruce Allen
    Home page is http://smartmontools.sourceforge.net/

    SMART Attributes Data Structure revision number: 16
    Vendor Specific SMART Attributes with Thresholds:
      3 Spin_Up_Time            0x0027   192   190   063    Pre-fail  Always       -
      4 Start_Stop_Count        0x0032   253   253   000    Old_age   Always       -
      5 Reallocated_Sector_Ct   0x0033   253   253   063    Pre-fail  Always       -
      6 Read_Channel_Margin     0x0001   253   253   100    Pre-fail  Offline      -
      7 Seek_Error_Rate         0x000a   253   252   000    Old_age   Always       -
      8 Seek_Time_Performance   0x0027   241   225   187    Pre-fail  Always       -
      9 Spontaneous_Combustion  0x002b   232   232   020    Pre-fail  Always       -
    10 Spin_Retry_Count        0x002b   239   232   157    Pre-fail  Always       -

    and so on
  • ...is much, much worse. Be glad it was just a Dell.
  • Nothin' new. I've worked in the computer repair industry for about 10 years now and I've had this happen to about 6 or 7 drives in my time. Never straight out of the box though. I always assumed it was from dust. Yes, mostly Maxtor drives, a couple of WD's and an IBM. Still, not as cool as a good ol' power supply explosion.
  • by dampeal ( 999182 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:52PM (#16016904) Homepage
    That' me, my site... sorry about the server probs... can only handle around 2200 online at a time.. host can't help me till this afternoon, they are having probs on their end.. and I was holding the drive in my hand by it's sides when it burst into flames.. fun fun -Dracos
  • So its jump on the computer fire bandwagon eh?

    Other things to watch out for...

    1) Gasoline - I know it smells nice and all, but be careful - add a flame and you have a really terrible explosion or fire.

    2) Frying pans - Don't over heat the cooking oil! You'll have a nice fire that water won't put out.

    3) Metal in microwaves - Do not get metal anywhere near your running microwave! It will spark and cause a fire! Remember, you heard it first here on slashdot.

  • How to get real flames from you hardware:

    1) Use your color laser printer to print at least 30 sheets
    2) Disconnect your printer (AC and network)
    3) Remove all the toners (usually 4 colour toners) and the drum
    4) Take an air spray
    5) Use it to clean the toner dust in the most hidden part of your printer

    That's it! You'll get 70 inches flames!!!

    At last I got them!

    And luckily enough I can still write and read from slashdot... :-)
  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @12:58PM (#16016970)
    Ball lightning - the most painful kind of lightning.
  • The slashdot effect extends to fry equipment in a radius now...
  • by MrP-(at work) ( 839979 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @01:15PM (#16017103)
    I was at work one night and someone in another department comes over and says a PC is on fire. I go over, black smoke shooting out the back.. horrible smell. I unplug it, bag it and put it in a back room to cool off. Next day I open it up, the seagate drive had caught fire. It was one of those seagates wrapped in a rubber cover and that melted. I took the rubber off and saw it was one of the chips.. it actually looked just like the chip in the article link, same location too. This was the coolest dead hard drive though [elitemrp.net].. the drive had been running for months (not working obviously) but spinning away grinding and grinding, finally noticed it when we had to shut down the server once and when it took forever to boot and reported a bad drive i took it out and opened it and saw that
  • by rspress ( 623984 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @01:19PM (#16017130) Homepage
    You should have read the warning label. It think they still print it in big letters on the box. MAXTOR.
  • A few years ago I had a Maxtor drive that went up in flames too. First it started making the usual clicking noises, then after opening the case and backing up just about everything the clicking eerily stopped and a few seconds the hard-drive was on fire! After shutting everything down and waiting for the smoke to clear I found it was the LED on the drive's logic board that was on fire.

    Funnily the tech support guy that I got when I was RMA'ing the drive kept insisting that I start the computer, visit their w
  • This reminds me of what happens when dc circuits are severly overloaded. Anybody who has played with enough DIY radioshack breadboards knows how it happens... A miscalculation of the current and as soon as the power is on, a small crack forms in the IC, it heats up, small flames. I bet there was a power surge when the guy turned his computer on. Is it on a surge supressor...?
  • by Namlak ( 850746 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @02:29PM (#16017694)
    All electronics operate with an internal supply of magic smoke,

    If you let the smoke out, it stops working!
  • by loose electron ( 699583 ) on Thursday August 31, 2006 @02:33PM (#16017731) Homepage
    What happened there looks like he fried the power drive chip.

    Lets see - All HDD PCB's have on it a power drive chip, that involves some rather large internal transistors for head positioning, and spindle rotation.

    Durning fast seek situations, or spinning the drive up, these can dump a lot of current through them, on the order of 1A to 1.5A (talking 3 inch single platter drives here, YMMV)

    That said, the power drive chip usually has some rather huge transistor arrays associated with controlling all that juice. Those power drive chips are generally done in either bipolar or DMOS silicon (DMOS, not CMOS, it is a power transistor process for large high voltage, high current transistors.)

    Sometimes the current distribution across the transistor array is not balanced and you fry the transistors. (For the semiconductor folks - hot Vbe junction, without emitter resistance ballasting, to give current balalnce, leading to a a domino effect across multiple base-emitter junctions burning out)

    What happens when the transistor fries, is that the chip inside the package gets hot enough that the plastic package above the chip melts, and then gassifies. Ka-boom!!! The gas blows a hole thru the top of the chip's package.

    Been there, done that.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Ah, the infamous SMOOTH chip. That's the same one that seemed to be at the heart of some 7200.8 and 7200.7 drive failures that I've read about.

      The chip would overheat and the drive heads would repeatedly seek.

      Active cooling seemed to help prevent premature failure.

      Later drives/models seem to lack the "SMOOTH" chip or have a much smaller (dieshrunk?) version/revision.

Syntactic sugar causes cancer of the semicolon. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982